ATO here to help those hit by COVID-19 and natural disasters

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) recognises the significant challenges that continue to face the Australian community this year. Many Australians have received different income, such as support payments, or have lost records due to natural disasters. The ATO is working to make tax time easier.

Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh is reassuring taxpayers that no matter their circumstances, the ATO has a range of information and support options to make tax easy.

“Whether you’ve received JobKeeper, JobSeeker, COVID support or disaster assistance payments, accessed your super early, or had your records damaged, destroyed or lost, the ATO is here to give you the tools you need to get it right this tax time,” Mr Loh said.

Tax treatment of different payments

JobKeeper

JobKeeper payments received as an employee will be included in your income statement as either salary and wages or as an allowance.

“If you’ve received JobKeeper payments from your employer, you don’t need to do anything different. We will automatically include this information from your income statement in your online tax return for you,” Mr Loh said.

Your income statement can be accessed in ATO online services through your myGov account and should be finalised by 14 July. If you use a tax agent, they also have access to this information.

Sole traders who have received JobKeeper payment on behalf of their business will need to include the payment as assessable income for the business.

JobSeeker

If you have received JobSeeker payments, this information will also be included in your tax return at the Government Payments and Allowances question once it’s ready. If you are lodging before this information is there, you will need to add it yourself. Leaving out income will slow your return.

Stand down payments

“You may have received a one-off or regular payment from your employer after being temporarily stood down due to COVID-19. These payments are taxable and should appear in your income statement and will be automatically included in your return,” Mr Loh said.

If you aren’t sure whether these amounts have been included in your income statement, check with your employer.

COVID-19 disaster payment for people affected by restrictions

The Australian Government (through Services Australia) COVID-19 disaster payment for people affected by restrictions is taxable. When lodging your return, you must ensure you include this income.

Tax treatment of other assistance

The tax treatment of assistance payments can vary; the ATO website outlines how a range of disaster payments impact your return.

The ATO website also includes guidance on COVID payments, including the taxable pandemic leave disaster payment.

Early access to superannuation

“If you accessed your super early under the special arrangements due to COVID-19, you do not need to declare this in your tax return. Any eligible amounts withdrawn under this program are tax-free,” Mr Loh said.

Lost, damaged or destroyed tax records

“We know that many taxpayers are facing lasting impacts left in the wake of natural disasters. If you find your records have been lost or destroyed, whether in cyclones, floods or bushfires, we are here to help,” Mr Loh said.

“If you have a myGov account linked to the ATO, you’ll be able to view some of your records, including income tax returns, income statements and previous notices of assessments. If you lodge through a registered tax agent, they can also access these documents on your behalf.”

Government agencies, private health funds, financial institutions and businesses provide information to the ATO which is available to your tax agents and automatically included in returns by the end of July.

If you’ve lost receipts, we can accept reasonable claims without evidence, so long as it’s not reasonably possible to access the original documents. You may be required to tell us how you calculated the claim. It is important to note this is not our general approach, but it can apply if your documents were destroyed in a natural disaster.

Other ATO support

“We understand that unexpected life events can make it hard to pay your tax,” Mr Loh said.

Even if you can’t pay, it’s still important to lodge on time. Once you lodge and have up-to-date records, we can help you understand your tax position and find the best support for you.

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